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Buck replacement, Boebert switch top races for open seats

Utah has GOP contest for Romney seat, South Carolina runoff for Duncan seat

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., faces challengers in Tuesday's primary as she seeks the nomination in a different district.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., faces challengers in Tuesday's primary as she seeks the nomination in a different district. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The race to fill the House seat that has been vacant since Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado resigned in March is one of a handful of elections Tuesday with no incumbents on the ballot.

Buck’s departure caused a ripple effect when Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert decided to run in his district, leaving her own seat open. But Boebert is not running in the special election for the remainder of Buck’s term, which is being held at the same time as the primary for a full term. Colorado also has primaries to pick nominees to replace retiring Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn. 

In Utah, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s retirement drew Rep. John Curtis into the GOP primary to succeed him, leaving Curtis’ seat open. And South Carolina is holding a runoff for the Republican nomination to succeed another retiring House member.

Here’s a rundown of the races for open seats. Tuesday’s ballots also include some incumbents facing serious challengers in their party primaries, and fights to pick nominees for seats that could decide House control in November.

Multiple votes follow Buck’s departure

A fiercely competitive Republican primary for an open seat in eastern Colorado’s 4th District features a controversial incumbent who switched districts, two state lawmakers and a talk show host, among other candidates.

But as voters on Tuesday select Republican and Democratic nominees to run in November, they will also pick a candidate to fill Buck’s unexpired term. 

Republican Greg Lopez, the former mayor of Parker who lost bids for the gubernatorial nomination in 2018 and 2022, is running in the special election to fill the remainder of Buck’s unexpired term. But he’s not running for a full term in November, meaning that if he wins — the district backed President Donald Trump over Joe Biden by more than 18 points in 2020 — he would only serve through January.

Republican Greg Lopez, seen in a June 16, 2018, debate for the Republican nomination for governor, is running to serve the unexpired portion of former Rep. Ken Buck’s term. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

On the Democratic side, first-time candidate Trisha Calvarese is running in both the special election and for a full term. Two third-party candidates – Libertarian nominee Hannah Goodman and Frank Atwood of the Approval Voting Party – are also on the special-election ballot.

Among the GOP candidates seeking a spot on the November ballot is Boebert, a polarizing Republican who has represented Colorado’s 3rd District, in the rural western part of the state, since 2021. Boebert barely prevailed over Democrat Adam Frisch in 2020. 

In addition to Boebert, the GOP field in the 4th District includes “parents’ rights” activist and radio host Deborah Flora; former state senator and cattle rancher Jerry Sonnenberg; state House members Richard Holtorf and Mike Lynch; and Peter Yu, a business executive. 

Boebert had the biggest war chest, with $680,000 as of June 5. Yu was next with $272,000, a total that includes a $250,000 loan from the candidate. Flora had $117,000. None of the other GOP contenders had more than $100,000 in their account.

Along with Calvarese, Ike McCorkle and John Padora are competing in the Democratic primary for the full term. 

The November race is rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Well-funded Democrat awaits foe in Colorado’s 3rd District

The contest in the Western Slope district that Boebert is vacating is rated Lean Republican. But in 2022, it was the nation’s closest race, with Frisch, a former member of the Aspen City Council, coming within 546 votes of an upset win.

Frisch has been a fundraising juggernaut, and had $3.7 million in his account at the end of March. He does not have a Democratic primary opponent.

On the Republican side, the field includes former state Rep. Ron Hanks, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and received the Colorado Republican Party’s endorsement; financial adviser Russ Andrews; and Jeff Hurd, an attorney from Grand Junction and a mainstream Republican who had secured endorsements from several top GOP officials, including former Gov. Bill Owens.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with House GOP leaders, has spent $400,000 opposing Hanks. Another conservative PAC, Americans for Prosperity Action, spent $368,000 backing Hurd.

But Republican outside groups aren’t the only ones investing in the GOP primary. Frisch is running ads encouraging GOP voters to reject Hurd, who many observers believe is the strongest Republican in the field, while a Democratic super PAC is also attacking Hurd and promoting Hanks.  

Curtis seeks Romney’s seat

With the retirement of Sen. Mitt Romney, a leading voice of the anti-Trump GOP establishment in the Senate, Utah Republicans face a choice between Rep. John Curtis, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Jason Walton, CEO of a pest control company.

Staggs won the backing of delegates at the party convention in April and has Trump’s endorsement. Wilson, who loaned his campaign $3 million, and Walton, who loaned his campaign $2.5 million, have both embraced Trump.

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, is seeking the nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Mitt Romney. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Curtis is a political heir to Romney, said James M. Curry, professor of political science at the University of Utah. “He’s in the same vein as a Romney or a Spencer Cox,” Curry said, referring to the state’s Republican governor. “He’s a bit more moderate … a bit less hardline than the other candidates. And as a popular member of Congress, the race is viewed as his to lose.”

A poll released earlier this month by HarrisX for the Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics found Curtis leading Staggs, his closest competitor, by 18 percentage points, with a third of likely GOP voters undecided.

Curtis has been the beneficiary of more than $7.7 million in outside spending, and an additional $1.9 million has funded ads critical of Staggs.

The winner of the primary will face Democrat Caroline Gleich.

Battle for Curtis’ seat

Utah state Sen. Mike Kennedy received the convention’s endorsement to fill the seat Curtis is giving up in the solid-red 3rd District. He faces fellow Republicans J.R. Bird, the mayor of Roosevelt; Stewart Peay, an attorney and former Army captain who has Romney’s endorsement; state auditor John “Frugal” Dougall; and political newcomer Case Lawrence, who founded a national chain of trampoline parks.

Several of the candidates invested their own money in their respective runs, including Lawrence, who loaned his campaign nearly $3.1 million; Bird, who loaned his campaign $1 million; and Dougall, who loaned his campaign $250,000. 

The district, which stretches along Utah’s eastern flank and includes the cities of Provo and Orem, has been held by Curtis since he won a special election in 2017.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Glenn Wright. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.

South Carolina runoff for Duncan’s seat

Trump-endorsed pastor and motivational speaker Mark Burns and psychiatric nurse practitioner Sheri Biggs, the two top vote-getters in South Carolina’s 3rd District Republican primary two weeks ago, will face one another in Tuesday’s runoff.

Two super PACs that have targeted hard-right candidates — Conservatives for American Excellence and American Leads Action — spent $430,000 supporting Biggs and opposing Burns.

The seat has been held since 2011 by retiring Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan. Inside Elections rates the November race as Solid Republican. 

The winner will face Democrat Byron Best in November.

Former radio host faces state GOP chair in Colorado’s 5th

Following Lamborn’s announcement earlier this year that he’s retiring from Congress, two Republicans jumped into the primary for the solidly red seat in Colorado’s 5th District.

Jeff Crank, a former talk radio host, was endorsed by Lamborn, as well as by House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn. Dave Williams, a former state representative and the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, has Trump’s support.

Outside groups have spent $2.1 million opposing Williams and $593,000 supporting Crank. 

Earlier this month, Williams came under criticism from members of his own party after he signed an email sent by the Colorado Republican Party criticizing Pride Month. The state GOP also posted a call on social media to burn pride flags. 

The Colorado chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ+ Republicans, issued a statement calling for Williams to resign as state GOP chairman.

The race in the Democratic primary is between River Gassen, who teaches astronomy and solar energy at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, and Joe Reagan, a former Army officer who served two combat tours of duty in Afghanistan. 

Trump won the district by 10 points in 2020, and the race in November is rated Solid Republican.

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